Mountain View Voice

News - May 3, 2013

May Day march for immigration reform

Local activists plan demonstration, 11-day fast to promote path to citizenship

by Nick Veronin

As supporters of immigration reform prepared to march from Rengstorff Park to Mountain View City Hall on May 1 — a day that has become synonymous with immigrants-rights rallies — the head of the Day Worker Center was preparing for a much longer journey.

In the run-up to the march, Maria Marroquin told the Voice that she and several other immigrant rights advocates would be fasting for 11 days following the event, with the intent of drawing attention to immigration reform.

Over the 11 days they abstain from eating, she will tour churches on the Peninsula and in the South Bay with the aim encouraging the local religious community to pray and take action for immigration reform.

Marroquin said that the 11 days of her fast represent the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. who have no clear path to citizenship. Many of them struggle and suffer every day, she said, adding that providing them a path to citizenship would help ease their suffering.

Opponents of immigration reform should realize that the vast majority of so-called "illegal immigrants" are contributing to the local economy and living peaceful, law-abiding lives, Marroquin said. "The people who are here really, really love this country and deserve a path to live here."

Job Lopez, the Mountain View resident who organized the local march, said Tuesday that he expected around 2,000 to attend the event, which would overlap with many other similar gatherings around the Bay Area and across the country, as pending immigration reform legislation makes its way through Congress.

Lopez, who called the current state of U.S. immigration policy "very inhuman and unjust," said the march is meant to call attention to the fact that families of smart, hardworking people are being broken up by Immigration Control Enforcement.

While these are people who are not legally U.S. citizens, he noted that they are also people who contribute to their community and love their new country. And, they are very often people who have children who are U.S. citizens — children that have grown up thinking of America as their home and know nothing about their parents' country of origin, he said.

"The Obama administration, for the last several years, has been deporting mothers and fathers of U.S.-born children," Lopez said, calling for an "immediate stop to unjust deportations."

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said he doesn't doubt that many of those who are deported for living in this country without citizenship are good people. But logistically speaking, he said, it only makes sense that the U.S. tighten its borders and place more restrictions on immigration.

"We do not benefit from admitting 19th-century style workers — meaning lower skilled workers — into a society that has radically changed," Krikorian said, pointing to Silicon Valley's "knowledge-based economy" to prove his point.

Of the 11 million individuals living in the U.S. illegally, about 7 million are in the workforce, he said, and the vast majority of them are working in low-paying, low-skilled jobs. According to his numbers, there are about three times as many native-born Americans competing for the same jobs.

"Why are we importing more lower-skilled workers?" he asked. "That's immoral, pure and simple."

Krikorian said that while those who have skirted immigration may love this country, they have still broken the law. "At the most elementary level, they knew they were breaking the law, they snuck into the country or the lied about promising to leave when their time was up," he said.

But according to Lopez, simply crossing the boarder illegally is not a heinous crime and those who have done so should not be treated like criminals. He offered his personal story as proof of this assertion. When Lopez, who has been a U.S. citizen for decades, first came to America, he overstayed his visa — not because he planned to, but because as a young, bright-eyed man with big dreams, he had underestimated the cost of living here.

His plan when he first came her 40 years ago was to save enough money to return to his home in Mexico and start a business. But as his bills mounted and he had to buy a car, his plans were delayed. Before he knew it he had established a life here. He met a woman, they fell in love and when he married her, Lopez got his citizenship. The couple now has two daughters and grandchildren.

Lopez acknowledges that some who cross the border illegally aren't as virtuous, and he said he supports the deportation of violent criminals. He even said he would support stricter border crossing control to be put in place.

However, Lopez said, the only way to truly slow illegal border crossings is for the global community to focus on improving living conditions in Mexico and other South American countries.

People who take a chance to come to America — legally or illegally — are very often coming here because they feel they can no longer tolerate living in their country of origin. They want better lives.

"They immigrate because they cannot find ways that they can live," he said.

Until people feel they can make a living and provide for their families in poorer parts of Mexico, until people don't fear for their safety because of political violence in places like Venezuela, they won't stop making the pilgrimage to the U.S., he said.

To see photos from the May Day march, head to the Voice's website, www.mv-voice.com.

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